Almost six months ago, Abhivyakti, a city-based group working for women’s rights had conducted a survey of the areas under Ghole Road Regional Office. The survey aimed to identify the number of public toilets for women in the area and the facilities available.
The survey covering areas from Nal Stop to Natawadi and including places like Patil Estate, Shivajinagar, Ghole Road, Kamla Nehru Park, Khilarewadi, FC Road, JM Road, Deccan and others, revealed some startling facts.
Altogether, there are 113 toilets for women, out of which signboards for only 16 are put up. Only 27 toilets have water; 12 have dustbins and 45 have electricity. None of the toilets were found to have hanger facilities.
The findings of the sample survey motivated Abhivyakti to launch a campaign—Right to Pee—that demands more public toilets for women in the city and thereby the right to dignity.
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Shraddha RR, one of the active members of Abhivyakti, said, “In the past few years, the city has grown and progressed in various areas. Five star hotels, malls, clubs and skyscrapers have mushroomed in all parts of the city. However, the number of public toilets are comparatively less and even if there are, their condition is extremely bad.”
Shraddha further said that around 60 per cent of Pune women step out of their house either for office or some other work on a daily basis. In case they want to urinate, they have to control it till they reach home or workplace as public toilets in the city are very scanty and the available toilets unclean.
“Our survey says that in many of the toilets there are no water, door locks, lights and dustbins for sanitary napkins. Such dire is the condition of public toilets that women prefer to rush to their homes rather than use public toilets,” Shraddha added.
Abhivyakti, a volunteer-based group, has nearly 70 active members which includes people from all walks of life—students to professionals to homemakers, both men and women. Under the Right to Pee campaign, the volunteers are in the process of taking signatures from Puneites who feel that more toilets are needed for women.
So far, the organisation has collected 600 signatures. “To bring this matter to the notice of Pune Municipal Corporation, we also met civic officials to make an appeal. We would be having another meeting very soon,” Shraddha said. The three demands that the group is making are clean, secure and free toilets; toilets every 2 km whose cleanliness would be the responsibility of PMC; and one per cent of the civic budget on public toilets.
Shraddha said, “PMC spends a big chunk of its budget on construction of various things but there is no provision for toilets for women. Even if they construct it, it would be given to some organisation to operate. That means one needs to pay to use it.”
Shraddha also cites various health reasons to justify the need for more toilets for women. She says that women tend to drink little water to avoid public toilets and washrooms. Holding back the urine despite the urge to urinate loosens the muscles of the bladder.
“It affects blood circulation. This combined with less intake of water leads to various illnesses like migraine, constipation, piles, kidney stone and indigestion. Besides, during periods or pregnancies, women often have to use washrooms. Infection might develop if the washrooms are not clean. In pregnancies, the baby may get infected as well,” Shraddha said.